Most people involved in the creation of wine are passionate people. This simple fact is renewed and rekindled in my mind with every winemaker, owner, viticulturalist, cellarmaster and cellar-rat I meet. They have a passionate interest and focus in the work they do. They are, generally speaking, also playful, amusing, open to new ideas, attentive to details, serious in their purpose, committed to whatever they feel is right, very friendly, courteous and compassionate, and happy to communicate even with those who are new to the ways of wine.
Nothing brought this home to me more completely than when I had the recent pleasure of meeting and spending a day with Anne Caroline Biancheri, the owner of Antucura in Argentina. Anne Caroline is French-born and French-educated but has been living in Argentina and producing wine for over 20 years.
Her winery – Antucura – is located in the Uco Valley, which lies at the foot of the Andes, and is one of the very best wine regions in Argentina. The name translates as ‘Sun Stone,’ from the old Mapudungun language (mapu ‘earth’/dungun ‘to speak’) of the Pehuenches, who were the first inhabitants of the area. The viticultural region boasts over 250 sunny days a year, alluvial soils with stones similar to the galets of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, little rain and a wide variance in temperature between day and night, allowing a long hang-time for optimum ripening of the grapes. The resulting wines, as in the case of Antucura, are quite stunning!
Anne Caroline and I traveled around many of the ABC stores in Tampa and Wesley Chapel, talking to the wine staff and guests, and letting them taste some of her wines. Everyone in every store was immediately impressed by her friendly, engaging personality as well as her intelligence. Tasting the wines was icing on the cake, and I must say that everyone raved about them.
Antucura produces only red wines. Their Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot plants were purchased from the same nursery in Pomerol that supplies Petrus and many of the other great chateaux of the region. They also grow Malbec of course, as well as Petit Verdot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. The wines are a beautiful melding of a specific Argentinian terroir and a French elegance personified by Anne Caroline and winemaker Hervé Chagneau.
Most people will naturally go for the Malbec (currently out of stock in most ABC stores but the new vintage will be coming soon) as that’s the way of things with Argentinian wine right now. And as Argentinian quality Malbec goes this is definitely a winner! But I would also point you toward the Cabernet Sauvignon with its soft and elegant fruitiness and easy tannins; and especially to the very seductive Calcura, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot. These are wines that are not to be missed!
Yes, it’s true. Wine brings out passion and focus and enjoyment and conviviality in producer and imbiber alike. The next time you are in an ABC store pick up one of these great Antucura wines. Pour yourself a large glass. And don’t forget to share the passion!
Bill Stobbs, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinebills